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Keynote Speech on the Belt and Road Initiative by H.E. Ambassador Liu Xiaoming at the British Parliament: New Stage, New Opportunities, New Role
Palace of Westminster, 25 June 2019
2019/06/26

Mr. Faisal Rashid,

My Lords and MPs,

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Good afternoon!

It is a real delight to join you again at the Parliament and talk about Belt and Road cooperation.

Over the past few years, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) appeared most frequently in both my discussions with British friends and my speeches at various events around Britain.

Last April, the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation was successfully held in China. During the Forum, 283 outcomes were reached.

Last week, Vice Premier Hu Chunhua of China paid a successful visit to the UK and co-chaired the tenth China-UK Economic and Financial Dialogue with Chancellor Hammond. Among the fruitful outcomes, the Shanghai-London Stock Connect is definitely a highlight. The two sides also signed an MOU on third market cooperation, agreeing to deepen cooperation on BRI project financing and build closer sub-regional partnership.

Recently, what I have been thinking about most is: What more can we do to take China-UK cooperation on BRI to a new level? Now I would like to share with you my views from three perspectives:

  • How do we understand the new stage of BRI development?
  • How do we seize the new opportunities?
  • What is our role?

To begin, let me quote a Chinese adage.

"With strong roots, plants will grow;

With right approach, people will succeed."

The second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation charted the course for high-quality BRI. This marks a new stage in BRI development. How do we understand this new stage?

In my opinion, the first step to understanding this new stage is to have an accurate judgment of the trend of the times.

The world is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century. This is highlighted by the new round of scientific, technological and industrial revolution, and the deep adjustment in the global economic landscape and governance.

Against this background, countries in the world are actively exploring new paths for development and new ways to improve global economic governance.

However, at the same time, unilateralism and protectionism are on the rise. In particular, economic globalization is ignored by its once leader, whose backpedaling and "us-first" approach has turn it into a unilateral bully in international trade and a source of instability hindering economic recovery and threatening the tranquility in the world.

BRI, which was proposed by President Xi Jinping, goes along with the historical trend of economic globalisation, answers the call of our times for reform in the global governance system, and meets the strong aspiration of the people of all countries for a better life.

In the past six years since it was proposed, BRI has followed the principles of peace, development, openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation. It has become a platform for international cooperation with extensive participation: 131 countries and 30 international organisations have signed documents with China on BRI cooperation.

The past six years saw the blueprint for BRI sketched out. We could compare that to "freehand brushwork" in Chinese painting. Now, in the new stage of BRI development, it's time to attend to the details of the blueprint with "fine brushwork".

First, the guidelines will be clearer.

In the new stage, BRI cooperation will focus on translating the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits into concrete outcomes. This will need all participating parties to leverage their respective strengths. Through such cooperation, BRI partners will advocate and uphold multilateralism with concrete action.

In the new stage, BRI cooperation will be open, green and clean. This means building an open world economy, protecting our planet that's vital for human survival and ensuring project transparency.

In the new stage, BRI cooperation will follow high standards, deliver more benefits to the people and increase sustainability. To achieve these goals, we must introduce broadly-endorsed rules and standards, make tangible contribution to local economic and social progress, and make sure that cooperation projects not only start well but also finish well.

Some people regard BRI as China's version of the "Marshall Plan". They see it as a geopolitical tool and even dissuade other countries from taking part in BRI by every possible means. BRI is a new concept, but these people choose to look at it through the old prism of the "Cold War". No wonder they come to the conclusion that this is a "zero-sum game" in which one party's gain is another's loss.

The fact is BRI is an economic initiative that promotes open and inclusive cooperation. It is not aimed at excluding or replacing anyone, still less forming an exclusive geopolitical alliance or, in their words, "China club". Anyone can join in. No one has the right to stop others from doing so. Countries willing to sow the seeds of cooperation would have the opportunity to harvest the fruit of development.

Second, the priorities will be in sharper focus.

In the new stage, BRI cooperation will focus on reaching the following five goals:

  • improving infrastructure,
  • encouraging innovation,
  • opening the market,
  • providing financial support
  • and delivering benefit to the people.

In specific,

  • Building infrastructure that is high-quality, sustainable, resilient, affordable, inclusive and accessible will cement the bedrock of connectivity.
  • Deepening cooperation on frontier technology such as smart manufacturing and digital economy will provide new driving force for BRI development.
  • Facilitating trade and investment and opposing protectionism will create a broader space for development.
  • Bringing in more multilateral financial institutions and financial institutions from different countries will foster a diverse financing system and a multi-tiered capital market.
  • Carrying out diverse forms of cultural cooperation and people-to-people exchanges will deliver the benefit of BRI to more people.

Some people claim that BRI only serves the interests of China while pushing other countries into the "debt trap". This is completely groundless. BRI projects are joint decisions of China and other participating countries. They are not "imposed on anyone" or designed to "frame" any other country.

As of today, China and countries along the BRI routes have set up 82 overseas cooperation parks. These parks have paid more than 2 billion dollars in tax and fees to host countries and created close to 300,000 jobs for the local communities.

China would never use its strength to bully other countries or strong-arm anyone to do deals on its terms. BRI is not a "pitfall" that hinders development. BRI is a "pie" for everyone to share.

Third, the structure will be improved.

In the new stage, BRI development will follow the guidance of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation and rely on the support of bilateral and multilateral platforms in different areas. Upgraded "hard connectivity" will be achieved through China Railway Express trains, new routes across land and over sea, economic and trade industrial cooperation parks, and economic corridors. Cooperation in the areas of science, education, culture, health care and people-to-people exchange will provide institutional guarantee for better "soft connectivity".

Not long ago, some Western politicians clamoured for "clash of civilisations" between China and the US. I think this is due to lack of understanding on the time-honoured and inclusive Chinese civilisation. It reflects the bias, narrow-mindedness and ignorance of these politicians.

One cannot help questioning the agenda behind the attempts to discredit China's progress with the absurd theory of "clash of civilisations". If countries all retreat to their own isolated islands, human civilisation would lose its dynamism.

In history, the ancient Silk Road through deserts and across seas had greatly boosted the exchanges and mutual learning between Eastern and Western civilisations. It was an important contribution to the openness, connectivity, development and prosperity of mankind.

BRI carries on this spirit.

  • It builds bridges for communication and friendship.
  • It enhances exchanges to prevent misunderstanding.
  • It promotes mutual learning to free the world from conflicts.
  • It encourages co-existence over the sense of superiority of one civilisation over the other.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. It is also the 65th anniversary of the establishment of China-UK diplomatic relationship at the level of chargé d'affaires.

China-UK relationship is standing at a new historical starting point. Our two countries face huge potential and promising prospects for cooperation.

I have been working in the UK for more than nine years. My greatest impression during these years is that China-UK business cooperation across the board has been increasing and deepening. BRI cooperation, in particular, has become a highlight of the China-UK "Golden Era".

To ensure high-quality BRI cooperation, I think our two countries should seize the following three opportunities.

First, the opportunity of rule-setting.

High-quality BRI development needs to be guided by rules. China will combine its experience in development with universally-accepted rules and standards. We want to base BRI cooperation on rules that reflect the broadest consensus of BRI partners and form the best practice of BRI.

The UK has been a world leader in regulatory expertise. It has unique advantages when it comes to the laws, rules and standards on international trade.

China and the UK have broad consensus and common interests in supporting the rule-based multilateral trade system. Going forward, based on our cooperation in the third markets, our two countries can enhance exchanges and cooperation on the setting and application of international rules and standards. This could provide better regulatory support for high-quality BRI development.

Second, the opportunity of innovation.

To achieve high-quality BRI development, greater emphasis must be placed on innovation. Digital, cyber and smart technology will create new impetus for growth and open up new paths for development.

The UK, as the cradle of the Industrial Revolution, has rich experience, unique heritage and strong capability in innovation. It is the fourth most innovative nation according to the Global Innovation Index (GII) 2018 by the World Intellectual Property Organisation.

China is also a leader in innovation. It has been increasing its GII ranking in the past years and reached the 17th place in 2018.

China and the UK can certainly do more to tap our respective potential for cooperation on innovation, so as to make more contribution to a digital and innovative Silk Road.

Third, the opportunity of financing.

In promoting high-quality development, no one should shy away from problems. On our part, China will do our best to address key issues that the international community cares about, such as project financing and risk management and control. Handling these issues well holds the key to fostering a sound environment for high-quality development.

The UK can take an active part in the investment and financing of BRI projects by fully leveraging the strength of the City of London and new resources such Shanghai-London Stock Connect. The UK can also explore ways to attract more capital from the private sector and open up more sources and cut costs of financing, so as to ensure the sustainable development of BRI and provide new impetus for international cooperation on trade and investment.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Little drops of water make the mighty ocean. BRI development needs collective wisdom and concerted efforts of all partners.

All of you present today have followed and supported China-UK relations. You have taken an active part in the events of the All Party Parliamentary China Group and the APPG for the Belt and Road Initiative and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Thank you for contributing your wisdom and efforts to China-UK cooperation on BRI.

Going forward, I hope you would continue to take part in and support China-UK cooperation on BRI. In particular, I hope you could play an active role in the following three areas.

First, I hope you would be a contributor of China-UK cooperation on rule-setting.

In the coming five years, China will invite 10,000 representatives from BRI partners for exchanges and discussions. They will represent political parties, think tanks and non-governmental organisations.

We look forward to enhancing exchanges with the British Parliament. You are all experts in rule-setting. I hope you would actively support and take part in China-UK dialogues, exchanges and cooperation, and ensure that the UK plays a more constructive role in making the rules governing international cooperation on BRI.

Second, I hope you would be a facilitator of China-UK sub-national exchanges.

Having visited many places in Britain, I feel deeply that China-UK cooperation on BRI could not be possible without the participation and support of different regions.

You represent different constituencies. I hope you would match BRI development with the needs of the regions and people you represent and leverage the strengths of both sides so that more BRI projects could take root and bear fruit in the UK.

Third, I hope you would be a promoter of people-to-people connectivity.

People-to-people bond holds the key to state-to-state relations. The ultimate goal of China-UK cooperation on BRI is to deliver benefits to our people, and the strongest driving force for this cooperation is the support and recognition from our people.

I hope you could tell the British people about the success stories of China-UK cooperation on BRI, so that more people in this country will have a comprehensive understanding of BRI and lend their strong support.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The Chinese people often say, "Do not scream yourself hoarse, but roll up your sleeves." In a similar spirit, the British people say, "Deeds are fruits, words are but leaves."

BRI is not a talking shop. It has a task force of partners that gets things done. BRI is result-oriented. It will bear fruits, not leaves.

As BRI enters a new stage of high-quality development, China stands ready to work with British people from all walks of life to seize the new opportunities and take concrete actions to translate the blueprint into outcomes.

Together we can contribute more "golden fruits" to the China-UK "Golden Era", and deliver more benefits to the people of our two countries and of the whole world!

Thank you!

Now I would like to take your questions.

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